Cart 0

Hunan : To the Tea Fields

My last post gave an introduction to Hunan tea.  Now it is time to experience the real thing.  The journey to the first tea fields took over 7 hours taking us from the grey city to increasingly rural and lush high ground.  Arriving late we stayed at a hotel with still 2 hours ahead of us the next morning.  We were heading towards the Baiyunshan Organic tea farm in Shimen County.

As is always the case the tea fields reveal themselves slowly.  First we stopped at the main tea buildings and were given flasks of the tea produced here.  A tantalising taste of what laid ahead {the tea garden manager is just behind me in this photo}.

After tea and some chatter we boarded our transport to head higher.  It was still early morning but the mist was clearing to reveal blue skies and we were soon greeted with the most beautiful sight.   The tea gardens and the pickers harvesting the spring crop of Maofeng and Maojian - famous Chinese green teas.

Let me share what I learned but with a caveat - it takes a lot of conversation through a translator to reach a common answer on many questions relating to tea - maybe this is because there is much left to interpretation - much still to learn - and perhaps it is this mystery that keeps us coming back for more - drives the debate {over tea of course} - which is not a bad thing in my view.  So please forgive me a few errors {I know you will :)}

As an organic estate Baiyunshan has an excellent position with no other tea estates above it {from which you may experience run off} no non organic tea growth and no other crops {e.g. paddy fields}.  The estate is 100 hectares.  The Maofeng and Maojian teas produced here are just the new tea buds and the leaf next to the bud.  The difference between the two teas is in the processing - in appearance Mao Jiang is more straight, Maofeng is more wiry.  These delicate spring green teas have a refreshing taste and pleasant aroma that I look forward to exploring with you more at the Tea House.

We observed the beautiful sight of the tea pickers traversing the tea fields - workers go through a cycle of picking, I was told that typically on tea estates the trend is to revisit the bush every 4-6 days but on this estate it is only every 20 days taking the youngest most tender leaf from the bush.  This is detailed work and we observed that sometimes the pickers take two leaves and a bud but in this case they remove the harsher leaf {you can see this discarded on the floor below}.  This pluck is very particular.

Plucking here only takes place in the Spring season - the flush comes in at the end of March and the spring teas are picked during the following weeks.  As this is an organic estate there is no fertiliser added to the soils - meaning the output is lower - each person picking 3kg of young tender leaf each day.  There are also empty tea fields with young bushes starting to come through - tea bushes take 3 years to grow and the soil needs to be rich in Nitrogen - so plants rich in nitrogen are used to enrich the soil - you can see reeds{?} lain on the fields that have some purpose in fulfilling this function.

After a tour of the fields we moved to the area where the fresh leaves are bought after picking.  Here, sitting back, it was possible to observe the intricacies of the operation and the community surrounding the tea fields :-

- Step 1 and 2 - the leaf is sorted by the plucker and any unfavourable leaf removed {as per the photo above}.  It is then places in the pannier for inspection.

- Step 3 - The leaf is inspected and if passed the plucker is given a 'pass card' - seen below in the hands of the seated gentleman

- Step 4 and 5- The leaf is weighed and the weight noted in the inventory.  The lady taking the inventory knows all the workers by name so simply captures their data



- Step 6 - The tea is thrown onto the mat ready to be taken to the factory

The work is then over and it is time to head back home.  This is not just work however - this is community.  All around this area workers were talking, exchanging, socialising.  I was lucky enough to join them for a short time and have some fun.

And then, for us, it was time to leave.  We headed back down for a lunch of fresh garden vegetables, free range Chicken and rice.  Accompanied by tea of course.  That is one thing I have loved on this trip so far.  Tea with every meal and throughout the meal - not just at the end.

After lunch we followed the leaves down the mountain to the factory for processing.  More on that tomorrow.....

Thanks for reading and goodnight from Hunan!

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published